The U.S. Department of Commerce is opening six new international markets for its Commercial Digital Attaché program, according to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who spoke with TechCrunch today in San Francisco.
The attaché program, which began in March this year, establishes commercial officers in countries where U.S. businesses seek to export their digital goods and services through e-commerce, or seek to engage in other online business activities.
The expansion will send six new Commercial Officers to: South Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Germany and France. Previously, the Commercial Digital Attaché program included: ASEAN, Brazil, China, Japan, India and the European Union.
According to Department of Commerce data, services that are delivered online account for more than half of U.S. services exports, and one-sixth of all U.S. goods and services.
That number seems likely to increase thanks to three major trends.
One is increasing mobile and broadband access in populations around the world. A second is the continued digitalization of previously analog services. Third is the rise of fully digital industry segments, like virtual reality and augmented reality in games, media and entertainment.
Pritzker said the six nations added to the Commercial Digital Attaché Program were selected because U.S. companies already have huge engagement there, in terms of trade and commerce overall.
“The role of these commercial officers is primarily to help American companies navigate the digital environment,” she said.
The Secretary’s tenure will conclude in January when the Trump administration begins. It is not clear how incoming Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will approach issues around the global distribution of digital goods and services, though he has extensive foreign investment and telecommunications experience.
During her time leading the 46,000-employee Department of Commerce, Pritzker traveled to 40 countries, often bringing U.S. entrepreneurs in tow alongside government leaders to press foreign leaders for changes to policies that impede the easy exchange of digital goods and services, like stringent data localization requirements, for example.
She helped negotiate a safe harbor rule, working with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which allows data to go back and forth online between businesses in the U.S. and Europe. That agreement supports $290 billion worth of trade, her department estimates.
Other markets and issues remain challenging for U.S. businesses that want to deliver content, goods and services online and overseas. The Great Firewall in China and its censoring mechanisms are probably the best known.